Glenn Crooks: Revisiting Collina’s 2002 World Cup Officiating from My Flight to Qatar

In Qatar, will there be more control in some of the tackles or simply an increase from the quartet of disqualifications four years ago?

Matt Simeone
November 21, 2022

Referee Pierluigi Collina smiles during the 2002 World Cup Final match at the International Stadium Yokohama in Japan. (Getty Images)

Bravo, Qatar Airways.

The Middle East airline helped spark ideas to share from day one of my journey to the World Cup with United Soccer Coaches, Generation Adidas International and SiriusXM FC.

The flight from JFK to Doha was 12 and a half hours. Personally, I’ve never been in the air longer on a direct flight. I downloaded myriad soccer and music videos from Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadina’s “Diego Maradona” to the documentary that showcases the recording factory, “Muscle Shoals.”

Then, a revelation as I maneuvered back to my seat from the lavatory.

One of the passengers was viewing the 2002 World Cup final between Germany and Brazil and I asked him how he accessed it. Turns out, the viewing options on the flight included the full match replays of several WC finals.

Related: 2022 World Cup on SiriusXM — Don’t Miss a Match

Since interviewing New York City FC assistant coach Kleberson two months ago, I had been intent to watch Brazil win their record fifth World Cup. Here was my opportunity – eight more hours remained in the flight.

Kleberson started in the midfield for the Seleção and was instrumental in the 2-0 triumph over the Germans – assisting on Ronaldo’s second goal of the match and eighth of the tournament.

A familiar figure marshalled that match from the middle – the current Chairman of FIFA Referees, Pierluigi Collina – arguably the top referee of his era and maybe in the history of the game.

Ahead of the 22nd edition of the World Cup in Qatar, Collina had a message for all 32 teams – fouls endangering an opponent may well have a harsh outcome.

“Whenever there is something that may endanger the safety of players, coaches should expect the strongest disciplinary sanction, which is a red card,” Collina said at a pre-tournament press conference. “It would be a shame if some of these players wouldn’t be able to play due to an injury caused by an opponent. So, the first message to our referees is to protect the players safety.”

A mere four red cards were brandished four years ago in Russia – the fewest in the finals since 1978.

The figure was 10 reds in Brazil’s 2014 event and 17 at South Africa in the 2019 World Cup. There were 28 ejections at the 2006 finals in Germany.

Meanwhile, VAR makes just its second World Cup appearance in Qatar and Collina has elevated the match-day VAR squads. There will be four video officials for each game: a VAR, an assistant VAR, an assistant VAR who helps adjudicate offside infractions, plus a VAR who will focus on effective communication and the time added from reviews.

And those offside calls will be aided by a new semi-automated system – a three-dimensional approach, which I observed with AYSO’s Dave Thomas from our United Soccer Coaches group during the Qatar-Ecuador match.

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We both looked at each other and just nodded our heads in approval and declared in unison: “no more lines.”

These are some of the items we can scrutinize during the Qatar World Cup, but a vital thing that stood out rewatching that ’02 final with Collina in the middle – he had complete control of the match with proper positioning and communication with players to help prevent elevated tempers and studs-up sort of tackles.

Beyond pre-tournament points of emphasis and technology, it’s the man or woman in the middle who is in ultimate control to nullify issues.

So, in Qatar, let’s see whether there’s more control in some of the tackles or simply a decided increase from the quartet of disqualifications four years ago.

Glenn Crooks is a host on the SiriusXM FC channel and the former head coach of the Rutgers University women’s soccer team.


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